Poke at Hibachi in Kailua

The poke case at Hibachi located in the breezy Keauhou Lane courtyard. 

Kakaako's red hot food scene mapped: Foodmap

The five new spots making Kakaako trend huge with sammies, craft beer and poke right now
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Kakaako has changed so much it's almost unrecognizable. But while it's true that shiny condo towers and retail complexes have sprung up in place of auto shops and parking lots, take a close look at the food scene: Four of the five new eateries that have opened in the last two weeks are local businesses that have expanded or moved to Honolulu's hippest neighborhood. And more are on the horizon.

With craft sandwiches, poke and beer trending big, here are the five newest reasons to park your car and explore Kakaako's red-hot dining scene.

EARL Kakaako

Hash fries. Photo by Grace Ryu

EARL's Kakaako location expands on what Justin Parvizimotlagh started in his humble shop in Kaimuki: gorgeous sandwiches with attitude. This second shop is larger than EARL's original in Kaimuki, with longer hours and air conditioning (yay!). The menu's also a bit different with the addition of heartier sides like hash fries and customizable meat options for the sammies. 

Where: 400 Keawe St.,
Parking: EARL will validate if you park at the SALT or Flats at Puunui parking garages

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The Hibachi

Pick up poke and meats for your next barbecue or eat in with a plate lunch.
Pick up poke and meats for your next barbecue or eat in with a plate lunch.

Hibachi is like a mini Whole Foods-meets-plate lunch mart with a serious selection of poke (they were a hit at last summer's Honolulu PokeFest). Up front, they've got trays of marinated meat and fish to take home and cook yourself, or you can have them grill your selection and add it to a plate lunch to eat on the spot. Their huge case of fresh ahi poke will please any palate — my fav is the Thai chili poke, which is making me sweat just thinking about it. They stock a number of wines, sakes, liquor and craft beer, making Hibachi the perfect spot to hit before heading to a gathering with friends. 

Where: Keauhou Lane courtyard, 514 Keawe St.
Parking: Validation available for Keauhou Lane parking structure with $5 minimum purchase

HICraft Kitchen

Carlos Jorge
Carlos Jorge is the chef and owner of Hi Craft Kitchen. Photo by Grace Ryu

After decades on the fine-dining circuit, Carlos Jorge brings an artisanal touch to casual sandwiches at his HiCraft Kitchen. He's got a serious menu of sammies with fun names like the Fowl Play, Beet Me Up Scotty and Shorty's Rib. Sandwiches come with seriously addictive yuzu pickles.

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Where: Keauhou Lane courtyard, 516 Keawe St.
Parking: Validation available for Keauhou Lane parking structure with $5 minimum purchase

Real Gastropub

Real's gastropub menu has options for lunch, dinner and in between. 

Real's new digs at Keauhou Lane have the same edge as Real 1.0, albeit with higher ceilings and more windows. The hightop tables and chairs are familiar, as are the beer memorabilia and industrial aesthetics of a place built from scratch. The gastropub soft-opened last week with 33 taps and a menu of elevated beer-centric dishes. Even more exciting is what's on the horizon: Bent Tail Brewing, Real's first brewing arm, is set to start producing beers on-site in coming months.

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Where: Keauhou Lane courtyard, 506 Keawe St.
Parking: Validation available for Keauhou Lane parking structure with $5 minimum purchase

Rinka

side dishes at Rinka
Go to Rinka for the Japanese hospitality and stay for the food. 

Rinka, a venerable hotspot for Japanese expats and foodies seeking a slice of Japan, moved from Makaloa Street to the ground floor of Ward Village's Aeo. The corner space is bright, noticably larger than its predecessor and includes a private dining room, sushi bar, banquet seating and a cocktail bar. It's still in soft-open mode and you're encouraged to BYOB. 

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Where: AEO at Ward Village, 1001 Queen St.
Parking: Free parking available in the Whole Foods structure and throughout Ward Entertainment Center

On the horizon, I'm looking forward to Bar Maze (mah-zeh), from the multi-award-winning teams behind Bar Leather Apron and Restaurant Senia; and Ya-Ya's, a new concept from Bo Pathammavong and Ho Suk Lee, the guys behind Uncle Bo's on Kapahulu and in Haleiwa. Both continue the trend of Kakaako's local infusion — and that's just what we love to see.